Watery paradise: world marinas

Marinas the world over have the power to transform a cityscape and boost the local economy, as Vision finds out

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." When Wind in the Willows’ author Kenneth Grahame put those words in the mouth of Ratty, the dapper Water Rat who likes nothing better than lazing about on the river, he captured a universal truth – water and leisure are the perfect partners.

Over a hundred years on from the publication of that classic of children’s literature, and messing about in boats is a big, global business. Globally, marinas provide a way to arrive in style – often via the local airport – at some of the world’s most exciting cities and resorts.

Whether you’re a dot.com billionaire berthing your super yacht at Miami Beach Marina during Art Basel, a Hollywood film star mooring at Cannes during the film festival, or a serious sailor stopping off at St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands as part of a tour of the Caribbean, marinas are increasingly important to local economies.

In anticipation of the end of the US travel ban, Cuba is also busy upgrading its marina facilities. The expansion of Marina Gaviota at Varadero, promises space for over 1,000 boats and will make it the biggest marina in the Caribbean.

Boats, though, are just one part of what makes a modern marina development – it’s actually what happens on dry land that really counts. And the promise of waterfront living and the lifestyle that comes with it can make such developments a magnet for investment.

Emaar Properties, the developer behind Dubai Marina, is effusive about the benefits of life on the waterfront, stating that: ‘Marina living has become one of the most desirable lifestyles in the world [offering] the vibrancy of a chic, urban lifestyle together with all the advantages of owning a home on the water.’ The twisty, 75-storey Cayan Tower is the most recent and high profile example of this, boasting nearly 500 apartments that overlook either the marina or the Arabian Gulf.

Elsewhere, Marina del Rey in California – the biggest man-made marina in the US – is another example of how these watery staging posts can impact on an area. Completed in the 1960s, what was previously a salt marsh is now a well-established, affluent waterside community on the edges of Los Angeles, boasting luxury apartments, hotels, restaurants and the kind of carefree, leisurely lifestyle so often associated with marinas. And with capacity for over 5000 boats, the potential for messing about on the water is almost endless.